The Twentieth Century: Medical Advances Essay

3694 words - 15 pages

A gradual evolution in medical advances has occurred throughout history. Illness and disease were of a mystical nature or considered divine penance in our early history as in the times of the early Babylonians. The Ebers Papyrus, which were dated approximately 1500 B.C.E. although focused on empirical medicine also provided for magical elements. The managed health care of today is not a modern development but actually one that had its early beginning within the Code of Hammaurabi thousands of years ago. Hippocrates taught the separation of religion and medicine and introduced the foundations for the advancement into our modern day bioethics with his teachings of “First, do no harm” ...view middle of the document...

The twentieth century was a time of revolutionary advances in medicine. The evolution of medical advancements in terms of reduced mortality and lengthened life expectancy shows exponential improvement. The average life expectancy at the beginning of the century was only 47 years of age; today it is 79 years of age (CRFB, n.d.). If lengthened life expectancy was the only criteria for determining the success of a century in terms of medical advancements then undoubtedly the twentieth century would be heralded as successful. Bacterial infections with no definitive treatment no longer dominated mortality; however, with longer lives, new medical challenges emerged. Several of the considerations that contributed to the importance of continued advancements in medicine during this century were in terms of behavioral, environmental and societal factors. The actions of individuals, as well as the determinants, and ultimate consequences were influential factors that precipitated the need for continued medical advancements and improvements of care.
Century by century these factors vary and perhaps strengthen based upon the evolution and the very nature of society at any given time. During the twentieth century, many behavioral factors established the need and urgency for continued improvements in pharmaceuticals, surgical procedures, diagnostic evaluations and medical research. Along the way, technological
advancements in medicine were an added bonus to the medical community resulting from the informational age.
At the forefront of the focus on medical care, the question to ponder would be, to what extent was disease development self-inflicted because of our behaviors during this time, which ultimately created the need for the advancements that occurred? According to the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare (1979), “habits play critical roles in the development of many serious diseases and in injuries from violence and automobile accidents. Many of today’s most pressing health problems are related to excesses-smoking, drinking, faulty nutrition, overuse of medications, fast driving, and relentless pressure to achieve.”
Early in the twentieth century, cigarette smoking became popular among men and women alike. Smoking was a symbol of the modern and liberated individual. An epidemic of lung cancer resulted because of this behavior, although it did take years for the correlation between the two was established. As a result, the medical community initiated action that has led to prolonged lives where in centuries before this would have been a sure death sentence. Although a cure is, still pending, medical research has provided advancements in early screening tests, and in developing screening for those with increased risks, improved drug therapy, treatments such as radiation and surgical procedures, all of which has proven successful in providing hope and promise for individuals with all types’ of cancer today.
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